Why I Went There?
I had about seven weeks between the time I left Southeast Asia and my arrival to Iran. I used that time to visit two regions for the first time: the Arabian Peninsula, and the Horn of Africa.
Where Did I Go?
I arrived at Dubai from Muscat, Oman by bus. While in the United Arab Emirates, I also visited Abu Dhabi, before flying to Doha, Qatar for two nights. I also had two short visits to Kuwait City. Somewhere between all this, I took 13 flights in 20 days.
My Other Blog Posts on Arabia
Total Days: 21
Total Expenses: 1,205 USD
Average: 57 USD/day
Traveling in these countries was much cheaper than I expected. Accommodation, food, and transportation are all cheaper than other comparable modern cities around the world, as long as you don’t indulge in luxury.
UAE: 15 days, 66 USD/day
Most of the time I stayed in private rooms in nice hotels. These rooms were around 40-50 USD per night. You can find cheap meals like kebabs for 3-4 USD. Public transport and taxis are on the cheap side. No visa (or fees required) for US passport holders.
Qatar: 3 days 2 nights, 39 USD/day
I was hosted by a wonderful couchsurfer, so I didn’t have to spend money on accommodation. There’s a 100 Qatari riyal (27 USD) visa on arrival fee, conveniently payable by credit card. Food prices are very similar to UAE.
Kuwait: 3 days 2 nights, 33 USD/day
I shared a hotel room for two nights with Victor and Phillip (33 USD per person per night). Tourist visa is free for US passport holders. We were also treated to a few meals by Phillip’s friends who live there. I think prices are similar to UAE, if not a little more expensive.
How Is It Like to Travel in UAE, Qatar, And Kuwait?
Very different from I imaged before going. I had these images of extreme wealth in UAE and Qatar, but the reality is that the majority of the population are migrant workers from South and Southeast Asia, which means that large areas of each city are just like in any other modern city elsewhere. People live in normal apartments, drive normal cars, and eat at cheap normal restaurants. There’s of course the mega-rich side of things, but it’s not as prevalent as I imagined. Of the cities I visited in the region, the most lavish ones were Dubai and Abu Dhabi, while Doha and Kuwait City are still very modern but more understated.
Another thing that surprised me in the region is that due to the large number of migrant workers from different parts of the world, English is the common language almost everywhere. You can use English at supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, and shops. Most signs on the streets are in both Arabic and English as well.
By my research, I believe there’s only one hostel in Dubai. A dorm bed there is not much cheaper than a cheap private hotel room. There’s also a hostel in Doha, but it’s a little away from the city center.
Public transport is relatively cheap and easy to use. All signs are in English.
Aside from local dishes, you can also find food from many other parts of the world. I ate at a North Korean restaurant while in Dubai. All the major Western fast food chains are also present in all three countries.
Alcohol in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha are expensive and limited to certain places such as bars inside international hotels. It is completely illegal in Kuwait.
I enjoyed all three countries, especially the mix of tradition in a modern world. I also found it interesting (if not sad) to see contrast between the ultra-rich citizens and the underprivileged migrant workers.